5 November 2013 Victory church
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble there is a spy in their midst and Pertwees are going down like flies. Priceless.
Quiet day get a fridge man on Wednesday for free, more books from Victory church
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins but gets under 400, perhaps I’ll win tomorrow.
Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson – obituary
Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson was a desert naturalist who toured the Sahara after an eventful war in which he faced an SS panzer ace
John Cloudsley-Thompson in the Sudan, 1964
6:22PM GMT 04 Nov 2013
Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson, the tank commander turned desert naturalist, who has died aged 92, survived a confrontation with a Tiger in wartime, and with countless scorpions in peace.
The Tiger in question was all the more intimidating in that it was the German war machine commanded by Michael Wittman, regarded as one of the most formidable tank combatants of the war.
SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Michael Wittmann on the barrel of his Tiger tank
Wittman is thought to have accounted for 138 tanks during the conflict, and it was Cloudsley-Thompson’s misfortune to find himself facing the panzer ace in a considerably outpunched Cromwell tank on June 13 1944 at Villers Bocage, 15 miles south-west of Caen.
Villers Bocage was considered a crucial battleground for control of Caen. Yet as Wittmann guided his Tiger down the main road it proved something of a rout as he knocked out tank after Allied tank. “Through the smoke loomed the gigantic form of a Tiger tank – it cannot have been more than 35 yards away,” noted Cloudsley-Thompson later, in his memoir, Sharpshooter (2006). “I fired the 2in bomb-thrower. The smoke bomb passed clean over the Tiger which very slightly traversed its gun. Wham! We were hit. A sheet of flame licked over the turret. ‘Bail out!’ I yelled and leapt clear. Then a machine gun fired at me. The Tiger rumbled past… then I heard my name called softly and looked round. There were my crew, hiding under a currant bush. Miraculously they were all safe.”
Cloudsley-Thompson’s Cromwell tank after his encounter with panzer ace Michael Wittman
It was Cloudsley-Thompson’s second narrow escape. The first had come in the Libyan Desert when, in May 1942, he took part in the battle for the Allied defensive region known as Knightsbridge. He had just turned 21, when he had been presented with a “magnificent birthday cake made from ground up biscuits and sugar”. He had also been promoted to Tank Commander. It was a tempestuous battle, with smoke and dust drastically reducing visibility. “The shelling was prodigious. [Suddenly] There was a tremendous crash.”
It turned out that Cloudsley-Thompson’s Crusader A15 Mark VI had been hit by a high explosive shell fired from a mile away. Despite a wound to his leg he managed to scramble out and jump on another tank which took him clear. Evacuated to Tobruk, he drifted in and out of consciousness. The rest of his crew, however, were either dead or fighting for their lives. Heavily sedated, Cloudsley-Thompson awoke to find a man he took to be his father by his bedside. Once his mind had cleared he realised that it was his uncle, Brigadier LF Thompson, who secured a place for Cloudsley-Thompson on a train to Cairo, where doctors managed to save his leg.
John Leonard Cloudsley-Thompson was born on May 23 1921 in Murree, in pre-partition India, now Pakistan. He was educated at Marlborough and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war. In September 1939 he helped his father, who was health officer for Lambeth, organise the borough’s casualty clearing stations, before volunteering for the Royal Tank Regiment. “I would rather drive than march in the infantry, and also I would like to see what I was shooting at and therefore not serve in the RA,” he explained later.
While waiting to be called up he joined the Local Defence Volunteers and the Home Guard before further training at Sandhurst, from which he was commissioned into the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. He then transferred to the 4th County of London Yeomanry (4 CLY “Sharpshooters”), sailing immediately to join the 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats). Despite a bout of dysentery, he took part in Operation Crusader in November 1941.
After hospital in Cairo, Cloudsley-Thompson recuperated in England, where he became an instructor at Sandhurst. He convinced his superiors to allow him to rejoin 4 CLY in time for D-Day, and took part in the Normandy landings. A week later he was confronted by Wittman’s Tiger.
In July 1944, however, he scored a remarkable success during Operation Goodwood, the attempt to storm the Bourguébus Ridge and enable a total encirclement of the German army in the Falaise Gap. Three British Armoured Divisions were sent across the open plains south of Caen under the sights of well-hidden guns. Hundreds of Allied tanks were knocked out, and Cloudsley-Thompson’s four poorly-armoured Cromwells were ordered through the thick of the battle to establish a foothold on the ridge itself. Emerging through the burnt-out wreckage of seven tanks, Cloudsley-Thompson managed to reached his objective. But as the artillery barrage intensified, his troop was withdrawn. It took another three weeks of high Canadian casualties to reach the top of the ridge. “What a pity we were not reinforced rather than being withdrawn on July 20,” he noted.
After the war he completed his studies at Cambridge and in 1950 was appointed a lecturer in Zoology at King’s College London. His interest in the natural world had endured through his fighting career; in the desert he had defused the tension of waiting to take on the Afrika Korps by directing his crew to hunt for spider and scorpion specimens. He even acquired a desert fox from a local which his crew tamed and nicknamed “Noball”. At one point the fox got lost inside the tank’s engine, forcing the entire squadron to wait before moving off.
Noball, the Desert Fox that Cloudsley-Thompson adopted
Immediately after the war Cloudsley-Thompson began writing for Nature and the journal of the British Naturalists’ Association (BNA). Then, after a decade at King’s, he was appointed, in 1960, Professor of Zoology at the University of Khartoum and Keeper of the Sudan Natural History Museum.
He was fascinated by creatures that were able to survive desert conditions and heat. Scorpions, centipedes, spiders and woodlice were his speciality, but he was not averse to crocodiles or tortoises. When one crocodile escaped its enclosure he found that the locals did not share his enthusiasm; the police shot the reptile.
With his wife, Anne, who worked as a nurse and physiotherapist in the hospital in Omdurman, he would also embark in his Land Rover on lengthy off-road expeditions, including one trans-Saharan trip. On one occasion he ventured to Jebel Marra, a huge extinct volcano in Darfur. Interesting specimens might be brought back for study in the little laboratory he kept next door to his office, which was usually filled with animals.
He was passionate about Sudan, and collected many Sudanese artefacts, including silver bowls, knives and sculptures. When he eventually returned to Britain to take up, in 1972, the position of Professor of Zoology at Birkbeck College, London, they festooned his house.
A determined, energetic man, Cloudsley-Thompson lectured around the world and was a prolific writer of books and papers. Many of these were produced in retirement (some 45, with Wilson Lourenco, on scorpion biology alone). But they were not limited to the desert and its creatures, and addressed subjects ranging from seals to bees. For the BNA, of which he was chairman from 1974 to 1983, he wrote for the Guide to Woodlands (1985).
Cloudsley-Thompson was also president of the British Arachnological Society, the British Society for Chronobiology and the British Herpetological Society. In 1993 he won the Peter Scott Memorial Award for outstanding services to our understanding of natural history.
John Cloudsley-Thompson’s wife predeceased him. He is survived by their three sons.
Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson, born May 23 1921, died October 4 2013
Simon Jenkins (Comment, 2 November) suggests the International Committee of the Red Cross has become an inadvertent tool of western powers who disguise adventurism as humanitarian action. It is not a reality we in the ICRC recognise, particularly not in places like Syria, where our independence from political sponsorship by any state or faction is key to our being able to deliver assistance in both government- and opposition-controlled areas.
Throughout the 150 years of the ICRC response to the needs of the victims of conflict, our organisation has weathered numerous attempts to cast us a lackey of interest groups, power blocs or belief systems. Every day in Syria we reassert our neutrality, in order to feed the hungry, provide water or get medicine to the sick. It is not easy to counter negative perceptions, whether they come from the misuse of the language of humanitarianism or allegations that we have a hidden ideological agenda. And notwithstanding setbacks – kidnappings and attacks on staff – we have found that constant dialogue with all sides and a demonstrably impartial response to people’s needs are the most effective arguments. In Syria it works.
This year, we have conducted 120 missions across the country, through dozens of checkpoints and across frontlines. With volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent we feed 450,000 people every month. However, our efforts to provide medical care are sadly impeded by those who do not accept the principle that all sick and wounded are entitled to treatment. Neutrality must be demonstrated, not declared. That’s the difference between an intervention that helps those in need impartially, and deserves the name humanitarian, and one that does not.
Head of operations, Middle East, ICRC, Geneva
It is difficult to see how the Co-op Bank can remain a “world leader in ethical investment” (Letters, 4 November) when it is to be significantly owned by vulture fund Aurelius Capital. Aurelius is trying to force Argentina to default on its debts in a legal case in New York. The vulture fund bought up Argentinian debt cheaply when the country was in crisis. Unlike other creditors, it refused to renegotiate the amount of debt owed, and is now seeking huge profits out of the South American country. Along with fellow vulture fund NML Capital, it has bizarrely got a US court to rule that if the vultures don’t get their huge profit, no one should get anything.
Vulture funds show most starkly the moral failures of our out-of-control financial system, from seeking vast profits out of crises in Argentina, Liberia or Greece, to demutualising the Co-op Bank through their aggressive strategy. A bank owned by vulture funds cannot be considered ethical.
Policy officer, Jubilee Debt Campaign
• The Co-op Bank’s hedge-fund owners might well be prepared to keep its ethical stance in the short term, for branding reasons. But any bank constitution won’t be worth the paper it’s written on once it appears to stand in the way of profit. Rather than fighting an unwinnable war, a better strategy for disgusted members might be to switch, if they can, to an ethically tolerable alternative. Meanwhile, the wider labour, co-operative, green and social investment movements should get to work on founding a new bank, perhaps in association with Triodos Bank (which, I understand, plans to introduce a current account in 2016). The Co-operative Bank is lost; start afresh.
Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway
• If there was a word to label the amalgamation of an ethical bank and hedge-fund backing, it would undoubtedly be an oxymoron.
Italian prime minister Enrico Letta’s jitters about Eurosceptic parties becoming more powerful after next May’s European elections overlooked the far more ominous fact that most of these parties are on the extreme right (Europe must unite to counter sceptics, 1 November). They are gaining in influence and support because economic insecurity is rife across the continent and is easily channelled into blaming immigrants for domestic problems.
Free-market, pro-European governments have introduced austerity and weakened domestic businesses and employment through the economic warfare inherent in the free movement of goods, money and people. As such, they have nothing to offer the unemployed and the insecure, except more of the same. People will only return to supporting “Europe” if it changes its end goal such that it is able to protect and rebuild national and local economies.
The present open market obsession of the treaty of Rome must be replaced by a treaty of Home, giving priority to the diversification of national economies, rather than endless austerity and ruthless competition. It is the only way to reduce insecurity and people’s readiness to vote for extremist parties.
Author, Progressive Protectionism (forthcoming), East Twickenham, Middlesex
• Enrico Letta says the EU must unite against sceptics, but I fear the moment has passed. Nationalism appeals to human nature because it offers us all a recognisable home among our fellows. Europhiles have had more than 60 years to express their project in terms that offer the same thing bigger and better, but have failed to find a formula that speaks to the heart. Rather than embodying the promise of a shared European homeland, the EU haunts the public consciousness as part pipedream, part nuisance. Against the warm familiarity of a more restricted view of kinship and geography, there is no contest.
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
• Enrico Letta calling for a great battle between “the Europe of the people and the Europe of populism” would have made Bertolt Brecht proud. The best he could do was “Would it not be easier to dissolve the people, and elect another in their place?” The EU’s democratic deficit is no accident but a deliberate policy to ignore the actual people of Europe and act in the name of an abstract concept, “the people”, which just happens to want what the elites think they should want.
• I’m pleased the CBI admits the benefits of being in the EU “significantly outweigh” the costs. Half of our exports go to the EU and, according to the CBI, EU membership is worth £3,000 a year to UK families. Yet rightwing Tories and Ukip are pushing for an exit. I hope the fact our main business group is wholeheartedly in favour of staying in the EU will be recognised in Downing Street.
Derek Vaughan MEP
• Can the Vince Cable who says the EU is a good deal for Britain (Comment, 4 November) be the same one who catastrophically underestimated the value of Royal Mail in its privatisation, leading to a huge financial loss to the Treasury?
In a piece of disinformation often used by the government to justify the privatisation of 70% of the probation service, the Ministry of Justice mentions plans for supervision of 50,000 prisoners currently “released with no statutory support” (Delay probation shakeup or risk deaths, Grayling is told, 29 October). In fact, the probation service does not and never has worked with these problematic offenders sentenced to less than 12 months, though the probation minister, Jeremy Wright, and the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, trot out the statistic to suggest that this high rate is a failure of the service. The probation service was awarded a BQS gold award for excellence in 2011, but a more important measure of its success is that the public are often so oblivious of it.
However, based on past experience of G4S and Serco (both currently under investigation for defrauding the public), one has a firm basis for fearing that probation work will be far more visible if the privatisation goes ahead.
Campaigning committee, National Association of Probation Officers (Napo)
• It’s disingenuous of the MoJ to justify rushing ahead with privatising probation on the basis that it consulted widely and that experiments at Doncaster and Peterborough prisons were successful. It has failed to allay the plethora of concerns expressed during the consultation, and the experiments were brief and far from conclusive. Another experiment in the West Midlands and Staffordshire that involved the probation service was stopped without securing an evaluation.
Grayling’s refusal to pilot his proposals underlines the fact that the approach to the probation service, unlike the commendable objective to reduce reoffending, owes more to ideology than criminology.
Shadow justice spokesman, House of Lords
• When I heard of proposals to privatise the probation service I wrote to the Ministry of Justice to say I assumed that such a move would not go ahead without good evidence from pilot studies about the effectiveness of such a transfer. After protracted correspondence, I was directed to two pilot studies. It turned out that these were in the very earliest stages of recruitment and in no way provided such evidence (as confirmed by the researchers themselves) but also the studies were not addressing the proposals I had questioned. I was not sure whether to be insulted that I was being palmed off with this information, or distressed that people in the MoJ could conceivably have imagined that they had provided an answer. The only evidence I now have is that the move is based on dogma rather than evidence. There’s a surprise.
Dr David Griffith
• Any experienced probation officer could tell the government and any organisation that believes it will make money from the supervision of low- and medium-risk offenders (How to make recidivism and costs rise? Privatise probation, 31 October) that high-risk and sex offenders are the easiest to manage because they are usually either in prison or, in the case of sex offenders, turn up for all appointments. The low- to medium-risk offenders who will be farmed out on a payment-by-results basis, are in the main the sofa surfers, the homeless, the drug and alcohol misusers, who are not known for their reliability or co-operation. Payments by results? I can’t wait for the realisation that they have shot themselves in the foot.
Retired probation officer, Bristol
• As a member of the public, I read with increasing concern that the government appears to be proposing placing 70% of probation work in the hands of untrained companies, some of whom are under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
The quality of supervision is crucial in reducing reoffending. The probation service is rated ” good to exceptional” by the National Offender Management Service, with reoffending rates down by 5%. It deals with the police, the courts, CPS, mental health, social services and other key agencies. The proposed changes would lead to a fragmented service unable to co-ordinate responses to a situation in which 80% of further serious offences are committed by people deemed to be medium- to low-risk.
Payment by results has been seen to fail. The Work Programme has cost £5bn with little to show for it. If some of our lawmakers were quantified in such a unitary way, there probably would be few A*s or value for money.
• I have to wonder how “grounded” in probation practice Sarah Billiald (Interview, Society, 23 October) actually was, given her short time at Kent probation trust. The privatisation of probation trusts, which she seems happy to profit from, is predicated on the high reoffending rates of those sentenced to less than 12 months imprisonment – exactly the group of people who have no contact with probation. A simple solution to this would be to extend supervision of these to the current probation trusts, which have a proven track record in reducing offending rates, rather than to give this important work to unproven organisations driven by a profit motive.
• The supervision of offenders requires skills acquired through rigorous training, and through experience. The ability to assess risk is paramount, but along with this is a need to understand and work with people to enable them to lead law-abiding lives.
I cannot believe that the likes of G4S and Serco could possibly deliver a service to offenders and to the public. How are they going to make a profit from supervising offenders, other than by employing unqualified people on lower salaries and poorer conditions?
Our probation service is respected throughout the world, but not apparently by this government.
Retired probation officer, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear
Many readers may have missed Paul Brown’s short account in Weatherwatch (4 November) about the wonderfully timely production of electricity from renewables. The maximum output from PV panels meets a peak demand round about lunchtime, and wind turbines have a maximum output that matches a similar high demand in the late afternoon or early evening. A powerful counter-argument when government support for renewables seems to be faltering.
• Why would anyone allow their energy supplier to estimate their bill and keep the surplus (Report, 4 November)? It takes me five minutes each month to read my meters and send the readings to my supplier via my online account. I pay for what I use, not a penny more.
• I have considerable sympathy with Ian Jack (I remember Scotland’s killer storm of 1968, 2 November). On 2 January 1976 hurricane winds swept England and 22 people lost their lives; my father was one of them. Yet this storm seems to have been wiped from history – all the talk this week has been of 1987, which resulted in five fewer deaths.
• The ongoing destruction of the legal aid system was brought home to me by the closure of Michael Mansfield’s chambers (Interview, 2 November). Last week I also learnt of the closure of Joan Ferguson’s legal-aid firm in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, because the effect of the continued cuts in legal aid is to make such firms unviable.
• You say “squash is the only racket sport where the players share the same playing space” (Sport, 2 November). Have you not heard of rackets (18th century) or racquetball (1950s), both still going strong?
Alderley Edge, Cheshire
• You know the polythene bag you sell us containing your Saturday glossies? Well, why not make it reusable?
Dr Ian MacIntyre
Even the most optimistic person could not claim that the UK electricity generation and supply arrangements inspire confidence. The private utilities have not served either the consumer or the UK well. The consumer has not seen the promised reduction in tariffs and the UK has not seen strategic investment for the long term.
This is not a criticism of the private utilities. They are obliged to act in the interests of their shareholders, to maximise return and minimise risk. They will, therefore, only invest in the lowest-cost, lowest-risk form of generation, which today is gas. They can only invest in alternative forms of generation such as wind, solar or nuclear if eye-watering subsidies or guarantees are provided by the taxpayer.
It is time to put aside dogmas such as “private good; public bad” and carry out an objective review of how best to provide a sustainable, secure electricity supply for the UK long term.
Although memory is fading, the Central Electricity Generating Board and the Scottish electricity boards did an excellent job for the UK. A mixture of generation technologies ensured that no single energy supplier could hold the country to ransom and the lights stayed on with a reliability that had not previously been experienced. They operated with truly impressive safety and reliability a somewhat disparate fleet of nuclear generating stations that were not that much better than prototypes.
No doubt there was inefficiency and bureaucracy, but a significant part of the cost was associated with research and development to identify technologies for the future, and to keep safe and efficient existing facilities. This R&D expenditure was dramatically reduced (or passed to BNFL with the Magnox stations) on privatisation.
There is clearly no simple answer, but a non-partisan, objective review is surely called for. Options might include a separation of high cost base-load capacity from smaller more flexible generation. The highly strategic base-load might be better centrally owned and operated.
David Horsley, Wigton, Cumbria
Smaller energy companies, with fewer than 250,000 customers, are exempt from green and social levies and don’t have large corporate shareholders to satisfy, so their prices are lower. By doubling the exemption limit, the Government could start applying real market pressure to the Big Six.
David Crawford, Bickley, Kent
Public Health England claims that fracking poses a low risk to public health (report, 1 November). Really? Fracking generates gas. Gas, when burnt, generates CO2. CO2 contributes to global warming. Global warming is a profound threat to human health. Who do they think they are kidding?
Keith O’Neill, Shrewsbury
Why some have mixed feelings about migration
As Yasmin Alibhai-Brown rightly reminds us (“Why does our compassion for the unfortunate stop at Calais?”, 4 November), many of those willing to cross continents and oceans to come under British rule are from places that were until recently our colonies. However, at that time our rule was deemed to confer no benefits, but rather to be vicious, exploitative and racist – and those peoples and places couldn’t see the back of us quickly enough.
So we left, often with sorrow and great loss after generations of what we thought of as honest service but which we were assured was actually systematic wickedness.
Perhaps if Ms Alibhai-Brown – or somebody – could explain to us why, if we were so awful then, coming to live amongst us now is so obviously desirable, we might be a bit less ambiguous about the whole question of migration.
R S Foster, Sheffield
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown complains about British compassion stopping at Calais but seems herself to discriminate between those who “manage” to find “sanctuary” here and those who cannot.
There are many “homeless, pregnant women”, “rape victims of war” and “economic refugees fleeing destitution” not only in Africa but in “failed states” elsewhere. Millions across the globe are “displaced, disabled and unemployed”, and millions more would rather live in England or Scotland for reasons of politics, religion, health, sexual rights, climate change or just poverty.
What about them, Yasmin? Does your own heart and imagination end at the cliffs of Dover? Shouldn’t we welcome everyone seeking better “life chances”?
David Ashton, Sheringham, Norfolk
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s column which, as with others she has written on migrant rights, she finds “draining and hopeless”’, comes to me like the beams from a lighthouse in a dark and merciless sea. Her bright voice is a beacon. Long may she shine. And long may you enable that.
Charles Becker, Plymouth
Calls of ‘Paedo!’, then a murder
The implications of the murder of Bijan Ebrahimi should fill us all with disquiet.
With shouts of “Paedo!” his neighbours provided psychological protection for those of their number who first vandalised his property, then beat him up for photographing them and finally murdered him. The police had arrested him for photographing the youths concerned and then released him on bail.
Four years ago I was working on a seaside campsite. Through an oversight a single-sex group of 10 boys in their teens and twenties was booked in. Their conduct was such that the police had to be fetched to compel them to leave by the end of the day.
As they were on their way out I photographed them with a view to preventing their return to the site or their booking in elsewhere in the area. Cries of “Paedo!” rose from them and they reached for their mobiles.
The police returned – and confiscated my camera. I might not have got it back if I had not written to the police requesting its return as the roll contained photos of the local MP at a dinner which I had attended. How fortunate that I was not a disabled foreigner with no contacts.
There have been too many cases of police sluggishness in protecting the vulnerable. I sincerely hope that there is a full investigation into the Ebrahimi episode and that its lessons are taken to heart.
Margaret Brown, Burslem, Stoke
In this case, the EU is not guilty
Oh dear! Even Terence Blacker has fallen for it. In making some perfectly sensible comments about prisoners, voting and the internet, he refers to “the perfectly sensible EU directive that prisoners should be allowed to vote in elections” (“Prison reform should start with internet access”, 29 October).
There is no directive and it has got nothing to do with the EU. What he has in mind is a verdict of the European Court of Human Rights, which is overseen by the Council of Europe. That is not the European Union, which has no say in penal policy or the electoral franchise.
It’s confusing, perhaps, but the confusion is sometimes deliberately sown by anti-Europeans. What a pity that someone as discerning as Mr Blacker should fall prey to it.
Tom Lines, Brighton
Good bank, bad bank
Chancellor George Osborne says RBS’s new focus will see it being a “boost to the British economy instead of a burden” (“RBS avoids being split into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ banks”, 1 November).
Well that’s one way of looking at it: another is that once again the banks, even ones we own, get the opportunity to eventually revert to their greedy, reckless ways.
Eddie Dougall, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
I wish to apply for the vacant post of boss of the RBS “bad bank”. My credentials are impeccable.
I am thoroughly bad; I have a wealth of bad debts; I have a strong track record as a very bad manager; and I have even taken a course in bad. I would promise to bring to the post some truly bad ideas, thus consolidating the essential reputation of a bad bank. Please send application form (preferably a bad copy).
David Punter, Bristol
Clash of cats and dogs
I have encouraged my dogs to chase cats that enter my garden (letter, 4 November), one of the few legal ways of keeping them out. My dogs were not bred for fighting but were effective deterrents in their younger days. Now they are old or gone, the cats are back.
My suburban garden has a pond, bushes, lawn and table to attract birds. The cats’ attempts to capture, torture and kill wildlife have driven all the birds away. Until cat owners keep them under control, I think owners of surrounding gardens are entitled to deploy whatever legal deterrents they have to curb this menace.
Dr Clive Mowforth, Dursley, Gloucestershire
Just like Dr Buckingham (letter, 1 November), who wrote about his experience after ordering white poppies from the Stop the War Coalition, I too sensed a presence breathing down my neck. I didn’t actually complete the purchase (of one poppy) before the phone rang from Lloyds fraud investigations wanting me to confirm recent transactions. At the time I thought this must be a coincidence, because I have had fraudulent charges on a debit card. But now? Very creepy and infuriating.
Dianne Frank, Oxford
Portrait of evil
Please, please stop publishing photos of Jimmy Savile. Today’s (4 November) is even more gratuitous than usual. I, like many others, always thought he was very creepy when my children were watching Jim’ll Fix It years ago. Now we know just how evil he really was. We really don’t need to keep seeing photos of him.
P Allsopp, Bramley, Surrey
I was fascinated to read (2 November) that the wrap party for the cast of Poirot was held in a marquis in the grounds of Agatha Christie’s house. I imagine the noble lord was much surprised. I suspect predictive text: a mystery worthy of Poirot himself.
Chris Bratt, Arnside, Cumbria
Chancing to watch an episode of The Young Ones last night I realised who Russell Brand reminds me of: Rick, a middle-class boy trying to convince others that he’s an anarchist, because he fears that otherwise they will hate him.
Dan Dennis, Reading
‘The wearer of a veil may give rise to those very prejudices by wearing it, but whether to take that risk is one that the witness should be permitted’
Sir, The latest contribution from Kenneth Clarke ( Nov 4 ) on the wearing of the veil in court adds nothing to the debate which is being clouded because it is being driven by motives such as prejudice, ignorance, Islamophobia, seeking popularity or simply jumping on the bandwagon, rather than a genuine desire to understand and find a workable solution.
In recent reports, the justification for banning the niqab has been based on the inability of jurors and judges to assess whether a witness is telling the truth, as “body language plays a vital part” in that process. Has anyone considered the regular situation where evidence is given through an interpreter? Whose “body language” is the jury or judge assessing in that case: the witness or the interpreter?
I have been a practising criminal barrister for nearly 40 years. T he same arguments were peddled before the introduction of evidence by video link by victims and other witnesses. How wrong we were. Do we want to make the same mistake? If there is a genuine desire shorn of prejudices, I am sure we can find an acceptable solution.
Mukhtar Hussain, QC
Lincoln House Chambers, Manchester
Sir, The logical conclusion of Ken Clarke’s argument is that blind people should be banned from being jurors or judges. He did not impose such a ban when he was Secretary of State for Justice because blind people do not lack the ability to make a judgment on whether someone is being truthful. The belief that one can tell from someone’s face whether they are telling the truth is deeply held, but unreliable. Not only are facial expressions often misinterpreted, but appearance gives full rein to racial and other prejudices. The wearer of a veil may give rise to those very prejudices by wearing it, but whether to take that risk is one that the witness should be permitted.
Sir, The decision to allow a woman charged with witness intimidation to wear a full-face veil throughout her trial represents a fundamental breach with the long-held principle that all suspects should be treated equally before the law. Members of juries hearing criminal cases have always considered their ability to see the facial responses of the accused to evidence given by witnesses against them as a vital part of the process of arriving at a verdict. To remove this discriminates against all those accused persons who would not be allowed by the courts to cover their faces during their trial. Furthermore, since the wearing of the niqab is not an inherent part of the Muslim faith, in the way, for instance, that the wearing of the turban has been for devout Sikh men, this present concession is likely to be seen as divisive and discriminatory.
Sir, It may indeed be “peculiar” to wear a veil in court, as Ken Clarke says; almost as peculiar as wearing a curly horsehair wig. Looking at people’s faces, however, is a risky way to determine if they are telling the truth. Might it not be better for jurors to rely on the evidence instead?
Barton on Avon, Warks
The progressive commercialisation of universities makes it increasingly difficult for people to be released for other important roles
Sir, In the recent discussion of the balance between research and teaching (letters, Oct 29 ), there has been no mention of the responsibility of universities to serve their communities. Major redbrick universities were rooted in their cities, often sponsored by local business and worked at a grass-roots level through the establishment of, for example, social work and educational establishments, as well as through local medical schools.
While institutes and faculties have traditionally carried out pro bono work, the progressive commercialisation of universities makes it increasingly difficult for people to be released for important roles — even, for example, those on the boards of medical royal colleges.
The tension between blue skies, potentially commercially rewarding research and work for local communities is becoming unsustainable. The public health community has striven to maintain this link between academia and practical research through the establishment of public health observatories. Maybe the time has come for standalone research institutions and for citizens to reclaim the practical functions of their universities.
Professor John R. Ashton
President, Faculty of Public Health
There are still so many conspiracy theories surrounding the death of President Kennedy, partly because of his extremely complicated love life
Sir, The details of President Kennedy’s energetic love life which emerged after his death must surely contribute to the multiple conspiracy theories that still surround his assassination 50 years after the event (“Why did JFK die?”, Nov 1).
The most notorious case was his affair with Judith Campbell Exner, girlfriend of Frank Sinatra and mistress of the Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana. At the same time Giancana had been approached by the CIA to help to plot the assassination of Fidel Castro.
Another of Kennedy’s mistresses at the time was Mary Meyer, the wife of Cord Meyer, a senior CIA agent and one-time agency station chief in London. The end of the affair came when Mrs Meyer was shot and killed in 1964 while walking along the towpath of a canal in Washington. As soon as her death was discovered James Jesus Angleton, the CIA counter-intelligence chief, went straight to her house and removed all evidence of her affair with the President.
Another sexual adventure by the President was said to have been with an East German woman spy.
There was certainly much in Kennedy’s life for the conspiracy theorists to work on.
‘Closures and c uts mean that it will take longer for firefighters to arrive at emergencies. That is not what the public wants’
Sir, Matt Ridley’s article “London isn’t burning. Don’t fetch the engines” (Opinion, Nov 4) was misleading. It is both true and welcome that there are fewer fires than ten years ago. T hese improvements, however, are largely a result of preventative work undertaken by firefighters themselves. Cut back on firefighters and you will cut back on prevention.
In addition, as well as tackling burning buildings and undertaking prevention work, firefighters attend road traffic accidents, civil disturbances, terrorist incidents and floods. And although fire incidents are down, this does not mean that large-scale fires do not happen, sometimes simultaneously, or that the need to have a properly resourced fire service to deal with them has decreased. Closures and c uts mean that it will take longer for firefighters to arrive at emergencies. That is not what the public wants and cannot be in anybody’s interest. Politicians are often quick to credit the fire service for its response, but firefighters are sick of being praised one minute and having their service cut to shreds the next.
General Secretary, The Fire Brigades Union
If cross-Thames tunnels and bridges are essential to the lifeblood of the nation, why are there virtually no crossings east of Tower Bridge?
Sir, I hope the exciting proposal for a “garden bridge” across the Thames (report, Nov 2 ) will be encouragement for planners at every level to get a strategic grip on transport links across the Thames to the east of Tower Bridge.
There are at least 15 bridges to the west of London as far as Kew and just two tunnels and one bridge to the east. If good communications are essential to the lifeblood of a nation then cross-Thames links, tunnels and bridges are crucial to the wellbeing and prosperity of all that lies to the east of Central London.
It will be a delight to have a “garden bridge” in Central London, but when will we see strategic green shoots appearing in the East? And some tarmac?
The Ven Patrick Evans
SIR – Teaching is not like plumbing, which requires technical skill. Good teaching requires close and constructive social interaction between teacher and student. This is a skill that comes from within and depends on an attitude of mind. If teachers don’t have that innate ability to interact sensitively with those in their charge, paper qualifications will count for nothing.
D L Stewart
SIR – The 17 signatories who wrote in to support compulsory teaching qualifications belong to a cohort – including education academics, teaching unions, Whitehall public servants and quangos – which for the past 20 years has presided over Britain’s catastrophic slide in the educational league tables.
Their opinions should not be given credence by those struggling against vested interests to improve our state education.
Building new bungalows will just lead to more canny home conversions
04 Nov 2013
Hill Head, Hampshire
SIR – I am surprised that every mention of falling standards of literacy and numeracy is followed by an inquest into the quality of our comprehensive schools.
When I was a child in the Fifties, primary schools taught little beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. Most of the learning was by rote and by the age of 11 the majority of pupils had a firm grounding in the basics and were unlikely to leave secondary school without being sufficiently literate and numerate to obtain a job.
The early years are the most formative and it is very important that these aims still exist. I cannot understand the suggestion that children commence schooling at the age of seven, thus depriving them of two or three of their most valuable years.
SIR – Perhaps the biggest problem with our education system is that we keep playing politics with it.
The great train gamble
SIR – Despite the deceptively large vote for HS2 in the Commons last week, it is clear that enthusiasm for this huge gamble is fading fast. The principal remaining champion is neither the Prime Minister nor Patrick McLoughlin, the hapless Transport secretary, but George Osborne, the Chancellor. He at least is keen to gamble £50 billion or, more likely, £70 billion of taxpayers’ money on a financial maybe.
Years ago a bleeding heart approached New York banker Bernard Baruch with the appeal: “There has been a terrible earthquake in Peru. Thousands are homeless – are you not sorry for them?” The shrewd banker’s response was: “Most certainly, I am $10,000 sorry. How sorry are you?” He was referring to his donation to the relief fund.
One might ask of Mr Osborne: how much of your personal fortune are you prepared to invest in this mercantile long shot?
SIR – Here in the Gulf there is a proposed rail link to connect all six Gulf states. It will be 1,352 miles long and cost £125 billion. According to last Wednesday’s Gulf News, the designs “will be completed by the end of this year or in the first quarter of next year. Construction on the network is to start in 2014-2015 and it will be fully operational by 2018”.
HS2 is for 351 miles, costing £42 billion (before any rolling stock is accounted for) and won’t be ready until 2032. This mad project would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening.
John Lloyd Morgan
Holding the phone
SIR – My struggle to switch gas and electricity supplier is facing stiff resistance – from the suppliers. In the past week, I’ve had to wait to speak to British Gas for 20 minutes, 30 minutes and 25 minutes. I simply cannot spare this much of my time to sit on the end of a phone!
Clear as a bell
SIR – I am lucky to have two daughters who attended an all-girls school, where each in turn was head of the chapel and senior choirs.
My wife and I have therefore enjoyed countless magnificent performances led by a brilliant director of music, but their sound, however beautiful, is not the same as that of a boy’s choir. There are subtle physical differences dictated by nature that give boys a certain clarity of sound, akin to that of a well-founded bell on a clear, frosty morning, that is impossible for girls to achieve.
SIR – Might I save a lot of expensive Electoral Commission time and suggest that the proposed question for the referendum (“Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?”) could be modified for those unaware that the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union to read: “Do you think that the United Kingdom should continue to be a member of the European Union?”
Sadly this may need further reworking for those who are unaware that they live in the United Kingdom.
Shurlock Row, Berkshire
Let’s celebrate Bonfire Night not Hallowe’en
SIR – I was dismayed to see those who disagree with “trick or treating” described as “Scrooge”.
Trick or treating is an excuse for blackmail and hooliganism. People have a right to hold Hallowe’en parties, but allowing children out to knock on strangers’ doors and teenagers to roam the streets and threaten residents is unacceptable. Bonfire Night is already under threat from health and safety and local councils’ red tape. I would have expected a more robust defence of our traditional and much-loved celebration.
A welcome landing
SIR – First impressions count. If Hugo Swire, the minister for the Commonwealth, really wants to strengthen Commonwealth ties, he could begin at British airports, where there is no Commonwealth channel at passport control, while there is one for the EU.
Lower Beeding, West Sussex
Tying one on
SIR – I was glad to read Damian Thompson promoting the wearing of cravats.
Last winter, as the temperatures dropped viciously, I decided I had had enough of going tieless, as fashion dictates, and found two or three of my old cravats in the bottom of my wardrobe drawers. What a transformation in the warmth, look and feel of the scraggy neck.
Putting cramp to bed
SIR – For many years my wife suffered from severe night-time cramp in her feet. Homeopathic pills which provided a degree of relief were found to contain copper. A two-inch length of copper pipe has been taped to the mattress on her bed, and cramp is now a thing of the past.
SIR – Nick Boles, the planning minister, wants more bungalows built in order to encourage older people to move out of bigger homes to make way for young families.
There used to be many bungalows around where we live but they are rapidly being sold and turned into large houses. A four-bedroom, two-bathroom house might cost £500,000, plus stamp duty of 3 per cent. You could buy a Fifties two-bed bungalow on a nice plot for under £250,000 with stamp duty of only 1 per cent. Build on two bedrooms and a bathroom and you have a large family house without incurring the cost of stamp duty: the money left over will lay a great many bricks.
SIR – I have difficulty driving around local roads because of builders’ lorries and skips all engaged in converting the many bungalows in the area into houses. What is the point of the Government’s scheme other than to supply additional work to the conversion companies?
Despite qualifications, good teaching can’t be taught
04 Nov 2013
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – If Mr Boles is serious about increasing the number of bungalows, a simple expedient would be to ban local authorities immediately from giving planning consent to convert single-storey dwellings into two- or even three-storey properties.
Chandlers Ford, Hampshire
SIR – My work involved helping people prepare for their retirement. Bungalows were the worst option for keeping fit – more stairs do just that. Bungalows are useful for those who are already restricted.
SIR – Building more bungalows is not the solution to the shortage of housing for older people. Bungalows waste land and eat up the green belt. Because it is virtually impossible to build bungalows near town centres, they often mean old people are abandoned in remote and inaccessible locations far from friends and family.
Older people need housing that is reasonably priced, close to shops, with excellent security and good facilities.
Spencer J McCarthy
Churchill Retirement Living
SIR – Many of us do, indeed, want to end our days in a comfortable bungalow. And yes, the convenience of town-centre living is well suited to the over-sixties.
I must rush now: I have to get my planning application in to Cambridge City Council in order to build my retirement home on the grass in Trinity Great Court (there should be enough room to grow a few vegetables, ticking the “green” boxes).
If that is refused, there is the Market Square, although I shall make a fuss until the bells of Great St Mary’s are silenced.
We oldies like our peace and quiet.
SIR – I moved into a bungalow at a relatively young age and, despite a little sneering from my children, I have never been happier. I am surrounded by a lovely garden, save on scaffolding when the roof leaks and, when I forget what I have gone to fetch from the bedroom, I do not have to trudge back upstairs again when I have remembered.
Sally de Sancha
Sir, – Most of the outrage about the Local Property Tax payments for 2014 has focused on the issue of payment being required in November 2013 for those who wish to pay by cheque or credit card, and also on the general lack of clarity in the Revenue’s communications on this issue.
However, a more fundamental point has been obscured by all of this. The payment date for those who opt for a single debit is March 21st, 2014. For those who opt for deduction from salary or pension in monthly instalments, the “average” payment is mid-year. So there is a financial penalty and a perhaps a significant cash-flow problem for those who wish to make a single payment.
The only really just and reasonable solution is to make mid-year (June 30th) the deadline for single debit authority payments, and a somewhat earlier date (say end-April or May) for those using cheques or credit cards to allow time for clearance and processing. Of course changing things would be inconvenient for the Revenue: it might even be impossible at this late stage. But a firm direction should be given to the Revenue about 2015 and, if necessary, legislation should be introduced regarding payment dates in the future, to make sure that this debacle never happens again.
The only need for the Revenue hearing from anyone this month should be in cases where people wish to change payments from monthly to annual or vice versa. – Yours, etc,
Willbrook Lawn, Dublin 14.
Sir, – Michelle Carroll from the Revenue Commissioners is completely missing the point (November 1st). The issue is that those of us who wish to pay by credit/debit card, and select this option on the Revenue website, are charged immediately and this is made clear.
I do not wish to pay monthly, nor do I wish to select a single debit option. I want to pay by Mastercard as I paid last year and also paid the household charge by this method. However, I have no intention of paying in November!
Revenue has slipped up here and would be better to correct the error and let people select an option to pay by card and then come back and pay in January. Revenue is usually the most efficient and easy to deal with of all the government departments but everyone can make a mistake. Correct it and stop confusing everyone. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Maybe the Revenue Commissioners would be better advised to stick to the time-honoured KISS principle when advising the Irish taxpayer on how to pay. It appears that giving us seven options has proved more controversial than the tax itself. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Only seven ways to pay the centrally collected property tax? Why are we not allowed to pay in cash? Is it too inconvenient for the Revenue?
Would somebody please check the Constitution – are the government departments serving the people or are we working for them, making things so very convenient for them all? What’s wrong with having cash? Unfashionable as it may seem, if we had a good few bags of it, sure the country wouldn’t be broke! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The mandarins in the Department of Finance have certainly got it wrong this time. Whatever is paid in property tax at the end of the month will be deducted from the Christmas spend, 23 per cent of which goes back to the Government in VAT. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It took less than two minutes for me to file my return for 2014, and print off the Revenue receipt, confirming that the charge will be debited to my current account on March 21st.
Simple, efficient, no confusion. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I wish to wholeheartedly back the brave Cabinet ministers tackling our wayward revenue officials (who could possibly have authorised them to collect a property tax?).
I also hope they will turn their attention to another appalling rip-off many of us face week in, week out. I have for a long time been confused and dismayed at having to use a device called a “credit card” on this thing called “the Internet” only to be sent complex numbers in some sort of booking code for a variety of goods and services. Indeed, just like the property tax, I am expected sometimes to pay upfront for things such as flights and hotels. A terrible state of affairs!
I can also exclusively reveal that one prominent such firm in the air transport area imposing these dastardly practices has the State as a major shareholder! I call on our brave Cabinet ministers to compel Aer Lingus to return to quills, semaphore and used banknotes, otherwise none of us will ever make it off this island haven of hi-tech cloud computing. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL Mc LOUGHLIN,
Sir, – The impression given (Michelle Carroll, Revenue Commissioners, November 1st) is one of payment being accepted by the Revenue under any normal method of payment. But only today I learned that it doesn’t accept payment by credit card in instalments. Direct debit instalment payments are accepted, but not credit card instalments “The Revenue haven’t set it up like that” I was told when I inquired.
Maybe somebody should tell Revenue to set things up to help people pay this tax which only came about because of hubris and over confidence on the part of the civil service and the government letting the country’s financial system slide into the abyss and thereby providing an opening for the troika to order the introduction of the property tax. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – To solve the capital’s water shortages, could the Government not come up with a Myles na gCopaleen’s de Selby type solution like dilute existing supplies? – Yours, etc,
Rue de Normandie,
Plaisance du Touch, France.
Sir, – Met Éireann tells us that about 1.2 metres of rainfall is average for a year across Ireland. Ireland’s area is a little over 84,000 square kilometres. If you do the arithmetic, this means that roughly 100 trillion (one followed by 14 zeros) litres of water lands each year. We use around 160 litres per day and there are around four million of us, so a total of around 0.23 trillion litres per year. In other words we use less than 0.25 pe r cent of the water that falls from the sky. And yet we have shortages.
We speak jokingly of people who couldn’t organise a drinks party in a brewery. Our wonderful politicians are so incompetent they can’t collect a quarter of a per cent of rain water. And they claim to spend €86 per head per year failing to do it. That’s over €3,000,000,000 in the past 10 years. In private industry that level of incompetence results in companies failing and jobs going. With politicians it results in higher taxes and bigger pensions. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is suggested that we drain water from the Shannon; while the Dublin rivers, the Swan River, and the Poddle, are culverted and flow via our drains straight into the sea, as does the Dodder, unculverted, when it doesn’t overflow its banks with its excess?
There must be a good reason, mustn’t there? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Gearóid Ó Loingsigh (November 1st) shares his experience of a high quality water supply in Bogotá, Colombia. He indicates that to suggest Ireland’s water supplies are “third world”, as many are doing, would in fact be an uneducated insult to so-called “third world” countries like Colombia, since he contends that Ireland’s water service “isn’t up to such a high standard”.
Information available on the World Bank’s Spanish website (www.bancomundial.org) states that in Latin America and the Caribbean 33 per cent of the rural population do not have access to basic sanitation services, including a safe water supply. I believe this to be more appropriate for loaded labels such as “third world”, and not a situation which will last “until at least Thursday” .
Ireland has faced, is facing, and will face many more, negative situations. But when we get ahead of ourselves and use highly sensationalised and inaccurate language for events which are not worthy, it only serves to cheapen the effect of the language needed for a situation when it is worthy, making its audience indifferent to a serious matter just when our attention is most needed. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – At the constitutional convention’s consultative Galway meeting aimed at broadening its agenda (Lorna Siggins, Home News, October 31st) John Hughes of the Second Republic group pointed out that the convention must address the constraints of Article 46.2 whereby constitutional amendments can only be formally proposed by way of Bills submitted by Cabinet to Dáil Éireann. This is a crucial point.
Under the convention’s terms of reference there is no obligation on the Cabinet to put any of the convention’s recommendations to a referendum. It is essential that the constitutional convention examines the implications of article 46.2 for any future deliberative democracy initiatives such as constitutional conventions or citizens’ assemblies. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Many of the measures announced recently regarding the misuse of alcohol are to be welcomed. However, the support for some of the alcohol consumption claims by the Department of Health appear to be exaggerated. The quoted consumption of 11.63 litres of alcohol per year for “everyone over the age of 15” appears to mistakenly include the consumption by some three million or so foreign tourists that visit the State’s hostelries and consume beers, spirits and wines during their stay. It also mistakenly includes the considerable duty-paid spirits, wines and beers that are exported from our airports and ferrie .
So it appears to be somewhat of an exaggeration to suggest that the average Irish adult consumes “roughly” a bottle of vodka per week.
This is not to undermine the issue of alcohol misuse and the good intentions of the Department of Health. But everything in moderation. – Yours, etc,
The Dalcassian Wines and
Spirits Company Ltd,
Sir, – My compliments to Peter Murtagh on his interesting article (Weekend Review, November 2nd). However, the largest number of executions at one time during the Civil War was not seven. Eight irregulars were executed at Ballyseedy Cross in March 1923. – Yours, etc,
IBAR Mc CARTHY,
Sir, – Bethany survivors twice met with Archbishop Michael Jackson, twice more than his predecessor managed. On both occasions we discussed the church’s responsibility for the Protestant evangelical Bethany Home and its legacy. We challenged a mistaken view that what happened there – death, neglect, starvation – was not really a Church of Ireland issue. Most of the residents were Church of Ireland and many were referred by clergy, some of whom sat on the home’s managing committee. The church and its people were part of a conservative mindset in Irish society. Unwed pregnant women were shut off in religious institutions. The church at large closed its eyes to the resultant “unwanted” children. We are those children.
Archbishop Jackson listened but it seems from reaction to your report of his recent speech many are not in listening mode.
If there are stand-offish attitudes toward “polyester Protestants”, previously part of other religious traditions, or “new Irish” Protestants from abroad, than what hope for us, quintessentially illegitimate Protestants? Our experience is largely ignored in the life of the church. For example, one Bethany survivor who works voluntarily in her local church was televised at a gathering around unmarked Bethany graves. She was pleased that many local people afterwards wished her well, but “not one parishioner”. That was hurtful.
Currently, we are raising money for a memorial to 220 dead Bethany children (that we know of), to be placed over the unmarked graves in Mount Jerome cemetery. When we unveil it, we hope that clergy from the Church of Ireland and other denominations will be present. It would be nice if other church members turned up too. They would be more than welcome. If they did, we might feel legitimised.
Archbishop Jackson has not opted for the quiet life and has his work cut out. We wish him well. – Yours, etc,
Chairperson, Bethany Survivors,
Sir, – Your Editorial (October 21st) on Iran’s new horizons trusts in the good faith of the new Iranian government regarding its nuclear programme and general relations with the West.
The Editorial refers to the “honesty” of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, says that he set a “positive agenda” at the recent Geneva talks, and claims there is “no proof that Iran has a military programme” regarding nuclear power.
While it is nice to be optimistic, one first and foremost needs to be realistic. Why does Iran need nuclear power when it is sitting on one of the largest oil fields in the world, with more than enough natural energy to power its economy and society for decades? Countries which have peaceful nuclear energy such as Canada or Japan do not have plutonium and centrifuges which are necessary components of nuclear weaponisation; Iran does. Nor are they trying to build intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) which are expressly designed to deliver nuclear warheads over thousands of miles; Iran is doing so.
Your Editorial does not mention that in the regime of the Islamic Republic, the presidency is merely a front; the real power lies with the clerical elite, and, despite President Rouhani’s charm offensive, which has beguiled many in the West, the regime has not really changed its spots.
Iran has not ceased its support for international terrorism, it has not cut its ties with Hizbullah in Lebanon, it still denies Israel’s right to exist and, as recently brought to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Oireachtas, it has not ceased its persecution of Bahais.
How can your Editorial believe so easily a country that has no respect for human rights? We all want to be optimistic about the Middle East, especially in the wake of the failure of the Arab Spring to create a brighter future for the region. However, this should not produce a mood of naivety where the West agrees to relax the sanctions on Iran in return for cosmetic gestures by the Iranians, when it is precisely the harsh sanctions that have brought the Iranians reluctantly to the negotiating table in the first place. – Yours, etc,
Ambassador of Israel,
Sir, – Roy Keane to be assistant manager of the Irish soccer team? Will part of his brief be to instruct the players in how to desert their country in its hour of need? – Yours, etc,
Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.
A chara, – I have my fingers crossed that the rumour turns out to be true, that Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane are becoming the next management team of the Republic of Ireland.
O’Neill will bring motivation, belief and enthusiasm, Roy Keane will bring determination, leadership and perfectionism: both will bring brutal honesty.
Even though we are guaranteed box office entertainment it is inevitable that this story will eventually evolve into either Saipan 2, Titanic or optimistically Roy of the Rovers.
So let’s leave Saipan 1 back in 2002 where it belongs and support this idealistic rollercoaster adventure we are all set to embark on but before it truly kicks off let’s ensure that each of our seat belts is fastened, securely. – Is mise,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.
A chara, – So the King is to be replaced by a man who has turned down a job at the Palace rather than a man who wore a black armband after the death of a princess; a man from the north of Ireland with an assistant from the city that cheered the queen rather than a man from the north of England who was captain under the Jack; a man who will embrace the prince from the deep south rather than sending him home from the Far East. They don’t need to turn water into wine; at present just water will do. – Is mise,
LOMAN O LOINGSIGH,
Kiltipper Road, Dublin 24.
Sir, – “Keano!” or “Keane? No!”? Never in the history of Irish soccer has the mere mention of one man’s name engendered so much heated discussion and caused so much division among genuine football fans, fair- weather Ireland supporters, soccer pundits and soi-disant “experts”.We live in interesting times; bring on the “prawn sandwiches”! – Yours, etc,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – As a subscriber to your newspaper for more than 50 years, I was shocked and disappointed by your publication (Sports Weekend, November 2nd), with expletives undeleted, of the extract from Ronan O’Gara’s book. Much of the language used may be regarded as appropriate to the relative privacy of the changing room, or playing field, but surely not in the pages of a family newspaper?
As a former rugby player, none of the language is new to me, but surely we haven’t lost all discretion – or have the real Barbarians taken over? – Yours, etc,
* I was struck by the energy, enthusiasm and innovation that characterised the hosting of the Web Summit. For a brief period, people lifted their heads to the blue sky and light that comes with untrammelled possibility and ingenuity.
Also in this section
The positive side of secularism
Sinn Fein hypocrisy
Tackle ‘fat tax’ head on
Imaginations were ignited and people engaged with each other creatively. This little country has spent the past five years with its head in its hands as big finance rained anvils down upon the heads of the hard-pressed man and woman. We have done all that we can to clean up the mess but the anvils keep falling.
The Government says: “Just keep head-butting them away, all will be fine; we appreciate that these are crushing burdens that you did nothing to visit upon yourself, but the Chancellor in Germany and the great men in Europe say otherwise.”
These blinkered bureaucrats will lead us to our doom if we do not free ourselves from the bogus enchantments of Brussels.
Those who attended the Web Summit were encouraged to be inspired by failure; certainly not to be seduced, and ultimately defeated by it.
But our deluded Government is beguiled by empty promises.
It returns from summit after summit saying that it has achieved “peace in our time”, in our financial wars.
But now that the time has come for Europe to make good on its word, the goal-posts are moved again.
I would entreat those who brought the hope and positivity of the Web Summit to our shores, to get on to our Taoiseach and explain to him that we cannot continue to be the galley-slaves of Europe as we sink under a weight of toxic debt.
Mr Noonan told us that too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart, even as he blithely unveiled a Budget that would take medical cards off pensioners, and meted out another dose of austerity.
Again, may I beseech one of those bright boys and girls, who ambled off the super-information highway for a short spell to be with us in Dublin, to get on to Enda and Company, and inform him that it is time to reboot and log off from this cycle of self-defeat.
We need new ideas, new light, and new thinking to come to bear on our fatal relationship between the banks, Brussels and the troika.
Killiney, Co Dublin
GOOD RIDDANCE TO BANKS
* It seems that everyone is worried about banks leaving Ireland, because it will reduce the competition. I think a lack of competition in banking will be good for Ireland.
It was the competition between banks that caused the ‘bubble”, which brought the loss of our sovereignty to the troika. If there were fewer banks, 10 to 15 years ago, they would not have had to make such bad lending decisions to get a piece of the action. They made foolish investments, which the State (all of us) ended up paying for.
Westport, Co Mayo
GATLAND QUESTION HOLDS
* I see Tom Brazil (Letters, November 1) thinks I am overstepping the mark by asking that Warren Gatland answer fully the question – Why did he drop Brian O’Driscoll from the Lions squad for the third and final test against Australia?
What I am interested in is the rugby reasons why O’Driscoll was dropped. Was it because he was not big or strong enough for the way Gatland wanted to play?
Was it because Gatland felt he was injured and had him replaced? Or did Gatland feel that his Welsh players were better for the task than the relevant Irish players? He also replaced Jamie Heaslip at number 8 with another Welsh player.
So I ask again – when are the media going to insist that Gatland fully answer the main question – why was O’Driscoll dropped?
LOVE IN LOW PLACES
* I agree with reader Tom Gilsenan about the world’s tallest man marrying a woman who barely reaches up to his waist (Letters, November 1).
How could he stoop so low?!
Mealisheen, Leap, Co Cork
SCHOOL CUTS’ DISGRACE
* As a second-level teacher I read with interest ‘How to make the most of your guidance counsellor’ (Irish Independent, October 23). Discussing “individual needs”, “one-to-one career appointments” and “returning for as many more appointments” as students feel they require, all play an important role in helping young people to navigate successfully through the secondary school system. It is exactly these services, however, that have been systematically stripped from our schools by a series of short-sighted Budget cuts.
Since September 2012, one-to-one counselling time has been cut by more than half and there has been a 21pc reduction in the overall provision of guidance services. The ability of schools to identify and help students with anxiety, stress or depression has been severely reduced.
Reducing the already meagre resources available to young people at a time when they most need them makes no educational or economic sense and will most likely prove far more costly in the long term.
Kevin P McCarthy
Killarney, Co Kerry
THE MEDIA LET US DOWN
* James Gleeson reflects much of current public commentary when he complains that, in the recent Budget, we had the “old guard” making decisions and “we had the wealthy and upper crust, as ever, heaving and weaving the balance of power” (Letters, October 30).
Such public commentary on the actions of our most important decision-makers in Government seems to miss the important point that this country was bankrupted mainly by the decisions of its democratically elected government during the Celtic Tiger time. In addition to public policy, media and academia tolerated the recklessness of financial institutions and the property bubble at that time.
As a result, even after some very severe Budgets, the Government is still spending a billion or so a month more than it is collecting in taxes and is borrowing the balance from foreigners.
It was not just the “old guard” and “the wealthy and upper crust” who were to blame. They also seem to have had the uncritical support of the principal opinion formers right throughout the Celtic Tiger era.
So any new guard or any different upper crust will need to be held to account by media and academia if what James Gleeson calls “the middle class and vulnerable sectors” are not going to continue to suffer.
Sutton, Dublin 13
DISRESPECT FOR VOTERS
* Viewers to yesterday’s ‘The Week in Politics’, including myself, were gobsmacked to hear the Social Protection Minister impute that only accountants could understand the contents of a recent letter from Revenue regarding the property tax.
The message in it was clear to all. Joan Burton, we are not thick, and fully comprehend the issues raised in the vastly increasing number of letters emanating from the Revenue in latter times.
Furthermore, if her government colleague Pat Rabbitte has his way, duties hitherto performed by An Post on collection of TV Licence revenue will be in the domain of Revenue.
So, the message to Ms Burton is simply not to regard the so-called ordinary Joe as a thickhawk and to dismount from the collective high-horse sadly so endemic in many of her governmental colleagues in these austerity-driven times.
The electorate, at least, deserves that much respect.
Ferbane, Co Offaly